Growing the community

The SAGE intern: the coriander has bolted

It was pretty hot this week when I turned up to see what Leanne was up to. She loves being her own boss and deciding her own priorities, even though the work never lets up. And she’s outside. She told me she had spoken to her friend in Sydney who was out in business attire buying coffee for her colleagues. She’s trying to tell Leanne, relaxed in her gardening gear, that she’s weird. Leanne doesn’t think she’s weird and, frankly, neither do I. I’ve done the corporate thing in the big city and, though I am not much of a gardener, I know which occupation plays better to the soul.

I found Leanne weeding the beetroot. She does this with an implement that I had not seen before. At the end of a long pole is a metal attachment that mimics your finger. You don’t need to bend over to weed. This is a good thing. The beetroot are looking good: there are several rows of them and no doubt we’ll be buying them soon. The celery also looks particularly good: bright green, firm stalks. I took a bunch with me … it’ll end up being braised or made into a Waldorf salad. It’s the crunch of celery that gets me.

Celery: knock out stuff and an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum

She has started growing corn though she is not happy with the economics: she expects to get two cobs from a plant. She can sell a cob for $1.50 so the yield is not good. I asked her why she is growing it. “My dad used to grow it,” she says, “and people love it.” She goes on to say that her internship is giving her a chance to experiment, she can balance the financial demands of market gardening with the need to understand what works and doesn’t work horticulturally. So, growing corn is as much an experiment as anything. Her trellises for her tomatoes are pretty impressive and the plants are starting to forge ahead. There are eggplants coming along. She has planted the potatoes that will be used for her March Spud Festival. Watch this space for the name may change but it will be seriously good. I know this for a certain fact.

She’s doing well at the market and is full of praise for Steve and Southlands who has been taking her vegetables. She has another customer who wanted 20 bunches of her coriander. But when she arrived to pick them she found that, in a heartbeat, the plants had all bolted. Coriander bolts when it feels the temperature rising and the leaves get tough and bitter. There’s nothing you can do although you can eat the flowers and you can collect the seeds.

I always enjoy chatting to Leanne because she is always so darn positive and cheery. But there was an added incentive this time. Blueberries. There are plenty of these in the SAGE garden and if you don’t get there to harvest then the birds will surely do it. I took a container a picked some of the sweetest blueberries I have tasted. Perhaps it is the act of picking them yourself that gives them the flavour. While I was picking them, and putting them into a container, Leanne was picking them and eating them. Well, I did a fair bit of eating them as well. Get yourself there and pick a few … or a lot, as the mood takes you.

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